A Few Personal Observations From a Contentious Town Hall Meetingby Stephen Littau
This past Saturday, I decided to meet up with Colorado Libertarian Party members to take part in a town hall meeting at the Smoky Hill Library in Centennial, Colorado. Several members of the state legislature hosted the event: Sen. Nancy Todd (D-Sen. Dist. 28), John Buckner (D-House Dist. 40), and Su Ryden (D-House Dist. 36). Senate Majority Leader, Morgan Carroll (D-Dist.29) was a no show.
When I received the invitation, in my inbox, there were 11 others who RSVP’d to attend the event. I really had no idea if we would be the only individuals in attendance who would challenge these legislators or if we would be in good company. All I knew was all of these legislators would be Democrats in favor of most, if not all, of the gun control measures (at least in principle) being considered at the state capitol. I fully expected that we would be crashing their party.
As it turned out, the Colorado Libertarians who responded to the Meetup invitation were not the only party crashers (I’m not entirely clear on who was part of ‘our group’ and who wasn’t). Before the meeting, several of us were outside with our pro-gun rights signs. Rep. Ryden and Sen. Todd were kind enough to talk with us briefly before the meeting started.
Just before the meeting started, we were advised to write down our questions on the 3X5 cards the meeting organizers provided to us rather than take random questions from the citizens. As the meeting progressed with a small number of the questions being read, many in attendance were not too pleased with this “I thought this was supposed to be a town hall meeting,” one person complained. About halfway into the meeting after several unsatisfactory answers from the legislators concerning the right to bear arms, one elderly gentleman stormed out.
Throughout the meeting, the legislators tried to steer the discussion toward other issues but a very vocal section of the crowd would have none of it, routinely interrupting their responses saying things like “Our rights don’t come from you, they come from God!” and “You aren’t tak’n mah guns!” etc.
I cannot say for sure if the majority of those in attendance were opposed to the upcoming gun control legislation but they certainly were louder than the supporters. While I certainly agreed with much of the sentiments being expressed toward the law makers and was very pleased that they made it known to them that some Coloradans aren’t too keen on the idea of registration, magazine limits, the proposed “Assault Weapon Responsibility Act” (liability for owners, sellers, and manufacturers of ‘assault weapons’ and ammunition – the most asinine of the seven bills being considered IMO), etc. I have to say that their antics probably didn’t win over anyone who was on the fence. They certainly didn’t change the minds of the legislators when they were being called “Socialists.”
Don’t get me wrong, I understand that this is a very emotional issue and those of us who favor the right to bear arms feel like we have been backed into a corner. Before the bodies of the precious school children were even cold at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the media and the gun control advocates demanded that our elected officials “do something” to make sure this “never happens again.” They made us out to be the bad guys. I fully understand that it can be emotionally satisfying to lash out at these people in a public forum. If the goal was to give these individuals an ear full, then let me put on my flight suit ala George W. Bush and say “mission accomplished.”
My goal, however; was somewhat different. I was hoping to have an intelligent discussion with these people about these proposals. I was hoping to point out to both the legislators and those in attendance that according to the FBI, violent crime in 2011 was at a 19-year low (I believe it was Rep. Buckner who erroneously said that violent crime was increasing). I also wanted to point out that out of all the homicides in the U.S. in 2011, so-called “assault rifles” made up for perhaps 2% of the total and that every school campus will have one murder every 12,000 years. It seems to me that the Democrats, who control both the executive and legislative branches in Colorado, are proposing solutions in search of a problem.
Those were the points I hoped to get across. Fortunately, I did manage to have a civil discussion with Rep. Ryden after the meeting. She was kind enough to allow me to give her a printout of these statistics, the blog post I posted here last week, and my contact information. We shook hands and I thanked her for her time.
Did I make an impression on her? Maybe. I would like to think that she was more open to listen to my point-of-view as opposed to saying things like “you’re not tak’n mah guns!”
Will she ultimately change her mind? Probably not. But if we want these people to take us seriously, to consider another viewpoint, and if we don’t want these people to think we are the fools the media makes us out to be, we need to stop acting like fools. We should leave that to the other side.